"Out of the Wardrobe" /
A short post today, and the simplest of videos, because -- guess what!! -- Ray Davies is in town and I'm going to go see him tonight. I've got to go hang with my herd of other Dedicated Followers and prepare ourselves to bask in his Rayness.
Today's album is Misfits -- a lovely little LP, though not one of my Most Important Life Records. Though Misfits fits squarely in the Arista-era bid to become a Major Rock Band, Ray lets himself revert to his old quirky type on several tracks on the album. Those throwbacks to his old storyteller self are for me the redeeming glimmers in this late-70s arena rock bombast; I mine them like gold nuggets.
Naturally, the title track is in many ways my life story, but the song I can't get out of my head is "Out of the Wardrobe," a tuneful little rag about a "chick called Dick" who's a cross-dresser. But don't jump to any conclusions; this isn't "Lola Redux." "Out of the Wardrobe" is more of a domestic drama, the tale of his marriage to Betty Lou, and how they deal with his transvestite leanings.
In a lot of ways Dick and Betty Lou resemble the young couple in Something Else's "Situation Vacant"; Dick's proclivities are more like Johnny's unemployment in that earlier song -- just something the young marrieds have to get past. "You see, he's not a common place closet queen / He shouldn't be hidden, he should be seen," Ray tells us, with a delivery that suggests total sympathy, not ridicule.
Or in another verse, "He's not a faggot as you might suppose / He just feels restricted in conventional clothes." Ray Davies was hip enough to the downtown gay scene to know the difference between a drag queen and a cross-dresser, and he enjoys playing around with the irony here.
And the secret of a happy marriage is that Betty Lou understands this. She understands it so well, she herself puts on trousers and smokes a pipe. The family that plays together stays together.
It's one of Ray's few happy marriage songs, in fact. He just loves these two, and so do we. Listen to how tenderly Ray sings the crowning line: "'Cos when he puts on that dress / He looks like a princess." Add a glister of guitar and we see Dick in all his glory.
NEXT: Low Budget and "A Little Bit of Emotion"